Under the Bed
Steven C. Miller
Jonny Weston as Neal Hausman
Gattlin Griffith as Paulie Hausman
Peter Holden as Terry Hausman
Musetta Vander as Angela Hausman
Kelcie Stranahan as Cara Evans
Bryan Rasmussen as Mr. Evans
There is no doubt that the concept of a monster under the bed is a childhood staple, and with good reason. They really exist. Totally. That monster in the closet that peers out at children when the door is left open a crack, he’s really there too. Attempt to convince any child that these specters do not exist, and prepare for an exercise in futility, as even those kids who will report that they agree that there are not monsters under the bed will lie awake for a little while clutching a flashlight when there aren’t any parents there to catch them.
Under the Bed, directed by Steven C. Miller (the same director as the Silent Night remake, as well as the SyFy film Scream of the Banshee and the poorly put together zombie film Automation Transfusion), takes on the “monster under the bed” theme from the standpoint of an aftermath; Neil Hausman (Johnny Weston) battled a certain monster years ago, and burned down his house and lost his mother in the process. What complicates matters is that nobody believes his story about the lurker under his bed, but years of therapy were unable to dissuade the youngster of the reality of his battle.
After spending time living with his aunt in another town, Neil returns home to find his father with his new girlfriend, and his young brother Paulie (Gattlin Griffith), all trying to move on with their lives. Neil’s father (Peter Holden) is having a lot of trouble dealing with the whole situation, believing that his son is making up a tale of monsters to avoid taking responsibility for burning the house and killing his mother. Paulie, on the other hand, has been spending the night in his brother’s room because he misses him so much, and consequently has experienced visitations from the monster himself. Now the two of them need to figure out how to survive the violent creatures visits, and dispose of the being on their own.
Under the Bed is an interesting film with a lot of potential. The first half of the film shows a valiant effort to create some characters that the audience can care about, and introduce supporting players who will be important to the later action and resolution. Unfortunately most of the details about most of the supporting characters were either not written into the script, or ended up on the cutting room floor. The result is an introduction to many old friends and acquaintances of our hero without any serious explanation as to their purpose or history. Knowing glances or wistful gazes from afar by a few of the girls indicate that there is something to know, but the audience is never let in on the secret.
The last third of the film is very different that what preceded it, as we wind up with a monster generally roaming around the neighborhood looking for people’s heads to pull off. The monster scenes are very ‘creature feature’ in their execution, which is cheesy yet fun at the same time, but is still a very different experience than the attempt at character-driven horror from the first parts.
The transition between the character set-up and the monster running a rampage is a bit abrupt… well, very abrupt. One minute we have a hidden monster that nobody believes in, and the next there is a wild wildebeest wreaking havoc and the doubters suddenly become ardent supporters of the monster-killing cause.
The best thing about Under the Bed is the story itself. In spite of the awkwardness of the film overall, a desire to see what happens next is enough to keep eyes on the viewing surface. Writer Eric Stolze had a good idea on his hands with the conception of this film, and maybe with a bit of polish in the transition from story to script the film could have worked a bit better. Maybe, but then there’s director/editor Steven C. Miller.
Miller seems to be very good with the basics of filmmaking, and there aren’t any glaring troubles with the “punt, pass and kick” of getting the scenes set up and executed correctly. What is lacking is polish in the storytelling department. The story is told well enough to get the point across, but there are just too many loose ends and strange behaviors with no explanation. The trouble may really be in the editing. It is as if there were too many scenes and too much footage filmed initially, and the decisions as to what to cut and what to leave are less than desirable. It would have been better to remove some of those characters altogether rather than bring them into the picture for no apparent reason. Miller is a relatively new filmmaker who has created a couple of higher-profile features, so it is likely that his skills will continue to improve over time.
Under the Bed is not a horrible film, but not a great one either. The story is strong and the performance of the two kids is endearing, so attention can be kept if the audience focuses on it. For many horror freaks a good story and some good intentions will not be enough to make this a winner, however, so those inclined to indulge in this film should be prepared to leave their “critical pants” at home.